Since October 2021, Israel has enabled thousands of Palestinians to register in the Palestinian population registry, which it controls, or to update their registered address, as part of a “confidence-building gesture” to the Palestinian Authority (PA). According to figures provided by the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee (the PCAC, a PA-run body in charge of channeling permit applications by Gaza residents to Israeli authorities), since October 1, 2021, some 10,500 Palestinians in Gaza filed requests to register in the Palestinian population registry, which Israel controls, and to receive IDs. As of March 20, 2022, Israel approved less than half of these requests (4,798 in total).
In addition, Israel approved address changes (from Gaza to the West Bank) for 2,895 individuals in Gaza. According to the PCAC, 1,179 of the people whose addresses were changed have applied for a permit to relocate to the West Bank. Most of the applications were filed more than two months ago, but as of March 20, only 156 were approved by Israel.
In the last four months, Gisha has inquired with Israeli authorities on behalf of 130 Palestinians, including 50 children, whose applications to move to the West Bank in keeping with their registered address have not received a response from Israel. Some of the cases are of people who were already registered with West Bank addresses but have been prevented from moving to the West Bank for years.
In stopping people from exercising their right to travel to the West Bank, to live and work there, Israel has exposed its so-called “gesture” as an empty one.
With Gisha’s assistance, the applications of 43 people, including 21 adults and 23 children, to move from Gaza to the West Bank were recently approved. Most of them traveled to the West Bank in early March, following Gisha’s legal intervention. Some of these people had been waiting for a response from Israeli authorities since November 2021. One woman, whose address had previously been changed to the West Bank, had been waiting for a response for more than a year.
Israel’s severe delays keep permit applicants stuck in Gaza against their will, in violation of their fundamental rights, including freedom of movement and the rights to family life, livelihood, and personal autonomy.
Non-response to permit applications is effectively the same as denying them. It is a practice of bureaucratic violence used by Israel on a regular basis. Denying Palestinians travel from Gaza to the West Bank is a reflection of Israel’s “separation policy,” which serves its political-demographic interests, rather than security needs. Often, Israel only responds to permit applications after Gisha or other organizations have contacted the Israeli authorities or filed a court petition on behalf of the applicants.
One of our current cases is that of a 42-year-old Palestinian woman, a mother of two. Her husband moved to the West Bank in 2014 and since then, the family has been split apart. The woman’s registered address was changed to a West Bank address in October. In December, she applied to move to the West Bank with her children.
Israeli authorities have failed to respond. Israel denied previous applications the woman had filed in 2015 and 2018 to visit her husband in the West Bank. Like in other cases, the prolonged delays by Israel in responding to her application extends the family’s forced separation and prevents it from reuniting in the West Bank.